Remembering Steve Church

September 28, 2012


Cleveland - Sep 28, 2012 - Colleagues and friends mourn the passing of Steve Church, engineer, entrepreneur, talk show host, and founder of Telos Systems and the Telos Alliance, a coalition of broadcast technology companies. Over the past 30 years he created many products that ushered broadcasting into the digital age.

Steve Church

Church was born in 1955 in San Diego, CA, and began his broadcast engineering career in 1975 at WFMK in Lansing, MI. He later worked at W4 (WWWW) in Detroit before moving to Indianapolis to become chief engineer at WFBQ/WNDE.

Church's first innovation transformed the sound of radio talk shows. Having hosted such shows in addition to his engineering duties, he was frustrated by the poor sound delivered by the analog telephone adapters then in use, which were plagued by sidetone distortion. The problem was thought to be unsolvable even by Bell Labs engineers, but by applying DSP adaptive filtering, Church solved the problem and was able to eliminate sidetone distortion. This became the basis for his first product, the Telos 10 telephone hybrid, and Telos Systems was launched in 1985 as a part-time project.

Church later moved to Cleveland to become chief engineer of WMMS/WHK, still building the company in his spare time. Sales of the Telos 10 telephone hybrid increased, to the point that Church decided to quit his day job and commit to his company full-time. The rest, as they say, is history.

Church's second breakthrough changed the way radio stations do remote broadcasts. What was once an expensive, complex and time-consuming undertaking with long distance telephone lines or satellite links was simplified when Church combined then-new MP3 audio coding with ISDN technology. The result was the Telos Zephyr, which enabled stations to set up and transmit broadcast quality point-to-point digital audio in a matter of seconds. Zephyr has since become the most successful digital broadcast audio product of all time.

Next, Church applied packet switching and Ethernet technology to the routing of audio signals around the broadcast facility. The result was Livewire IP-Audio, which employs a linear audio-over-IP method. This technology has fundamentally altered broadcast studio infrastructure and spurred a new wave of signal routing within broadcast facilities.

In 2010, Church, together with Skip Pizzi, authored the book Audio over IP: Building Pro AoIP Systems with Livewire. He has been well-published in numerous trade publications, has written many white papers, and given numerous technical presentations at the NAB Show, Audio Engineering Society convention, IEEE, SMPTE, and various other technical forums. In 2010 Church received the NAB's radio engineering award.

At the heart of his work was a deep, abiding love for the medium of radio itself, a love manifested since childhood. He wrote, in 2008:
"Radio is a bit like a kiss, no? When passion takes a grip, a kiss connects two humans in an exchange of secrets and emotions. We kiss furtively, lasciviously, gently, shyly, hungrily and exuberantly. We kiss in broad daylight and in the dead of night. We give ceremonial kisses, affectionate kisses, Hollywood air kisses, kisses of death and (in fairytales) pecks that revive princesses. At its best, and in our imagination, radio has such a variety, and a similar power.

"It is well-known that one's lifelong musical taste is pretty much imprinted during the teen years. Our connection to radio might be, as well. How many of us, during those sensitive years, listening to a great DJ or talk host, decided we wanted to be a part of that? ... Think about the vast numbers of people for whom work is just work, and consider how fortunate we are to have found a vocation bound in such a way to our inner spirit."

Telos has created a tribute page to Steve Church.

Church fought a three-year battle with brain cancer. He passed away quietly at his home near Cleveland, on Sept. 28, 2012. He is survived by his wife Lana, stepson Dimitri, mother Jacqueline Burgess, and brothers Brent Church, Dann Church and Todd Church. He was 57 years old.



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